Sunday, April 08, 2007

Howard G. Rosenberg, D.D.S. ~ The Extraction

I always hated dentists as a kid. It was an era when getting braces on your kid's teeth was a status symbol, and my mom was very much into the status thing. Sometimes the dentist would decide that a baby tooth needed to be pulled so my adult tooth could grow in straight. Every few months I'd have to get the braces adjusted, pulling this tooth one way and pushing that one another way. The dentist had my mom convinced that I should get cavities filled in baby teeth that would be gone in a few months anyway. My dad was making lots of money, my mom wanted only the best for her precious little Alan, and the dentist saw my mouth as the source of Carribean vacations and fancy cars.

I didn't mind the X-rays, but the shots, the drilling, the extractions, and the braces didn't thrill me. Sometimes I just wouldn't keep an appointment and I'd go to the movies after school instead. Being yelled at was better than that trip to the dentist. When my braces finally came off there were new cavities on the teeth where the braces had been. Oh thrill. More needles and drilling. After I "grew up" and moved out on my own I stopped going to dentists.

Fast forward twelve or fifteen years and I was working as a photographer for The North Dade Journal. One of my teeth started to act up. It had gone well past the point where a couple of aspirins, or those little tubes of pain killer that you squirt in the cavity, would do any good. My editor and good friend Jim Kukar suggested that I visit Dr. Rosenberg who was just a few offices west of the paper's office.

Howard was about the same age as we were, actually a year or two younger I think. He'd only recently started his practice, but Jim assured me that I wouldn't be a subject for Howard to "practice" on. The sexiest young dental assistant I'd ever seen took the usual X-rays. The late 60's was an era of miniskirts, and female medical personel were still wearing dresses back then. That did a lot to take my mind off of what was about to happen. Then I clenched my fists and got prepared for the worst, but Howard took a cotton swab and put a dab of something to numb the gum a bit before gently pushing the needle home. As the numbness spread he painlessly made a few more jabs to make sure that he'd gotten the Novocaine to all of the nerves leading to the tooth. I relaxed somewhat and closed my eyes, leaning back in the chair. Howard left the room to give me time to get good and numb. When he returned I kept my eyes shut, but opened my mouth when he told me to "open". "Just checking" he said as he poked my gum, testing for numbness. Suddenly he said "you can open your eyes now. Bite down on this gauze pad". The tooth was out! I've been using him ever since.

This photograph was about two weeks ago. Another tooth was at the point where I just knew that I was within days of another tooth ache. Time to see Howard! After the painless extraction we chatted about the kids, and he mentioned how he'd recently run into the formerly sexy young thing that had been his dental assistant nearly forty years ago, now an overweight grandmother. Then I wrote out a check that probably would have paid for a Carribean vacation back in the 1960's.

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